SNCF Renouvelables: SNCF launches solar energy production subsidiary
On Thursday, the French national railways announced the launch of ‘SNCF Renouvelables,’ its solar energy production subsidiary. The division will oversee the creation of solar power stations across the country on land owned by SNCF. Its first objective is to cover around 20 per cent of its electricity needs by 2030.
The SNCF launched a nationwide consultation for the installation of solar panels on the grounds of the first 156 French stations, to deploy 1.1 million square metres of solar panels on railway station property by 2030, back in February of 2022. “We are speeding up the deployment of solar panels, which has already begun at SNCF Gares & Connexions. By 2030, with SNCF Renouvelables, we will be creating energy to benefit the railways and the areas we serve. And we’ll be creating a lot of it, with an initial target of about 1000 MWp, or about 20 per cent of our needs,” states SNCF chairman and CEO, Jean-Pierre Farandou.
With 15,000 trains, more than 80 per cent of which currently run on electricity, and 3,000 stations, SNFC is France’s biggest consumer of electricity. For instance, SNCF consumed 3 per cent of all electricity in France in 2017. Their energy needs relate to 4 main uses: rail traction (more than half of their consumption), road (about a quarter of their consumption), and the needs of buildings in the tertiary, social, industrial and railway sectors, including stations, and service vehicles. The SNCF’s energy consumption comes from four main sources. Electricity makes up 53 per cent of its consumption, off-road diesel makes up 13 per cent, road diesel 22 per cent, and natural gas 7 per cent.
“Today, the equation is simple. We’re one of the country’s biggest landowners, and we need a lot of electricity to run the rail system, with its 15,000 trains a day, 3,000 stations and numerous industrial and service buildings. We are going to mobilise 1,000 hectares of our land reserves to produce solar energy. With SNCF Renouvelables, we are creating a dedicated subsidiary, which will manage projects all over France, and enable us to secure our energy supplies,” he adds.
The SNCF plans to increase its energy performance by 20 per cent while reducing its carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2025. “With its new subsidiary SNCF Renouvelables, the SNCF group will be creating completely carbon-free solar energy,” emphasises Farandou. “We are implementing our strategy for developing the railways, in support of the ecological transition. We are reaffirming our environmental and regional commitments, taking part in France’s objectives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening our country’s energy autonomy.”
Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister for Energy Transition, and Clément Beaune, Minister Delegate for Transport, visited the SNCF Group’s head office on Thursday 6 July to discuss its commitment to speeding up the deployment of renewable energies in France. The ministers took part in a press conference to launch the “SNCF Renouvelables” subsidiary, in the presence of SNCF Chairman and CEO Jean-Pierre Farandou.
In 1992, the SNCF combined all its power generation resources under a single company, Société hydro-electrique du midi (SHEM). SHEM took control of all the SNCF’s hydroelectric facilities. Previously, SHEM had only a few plants (Louron, Aveillans, Ribérole). In 2000, SHEM became an independent electricity producer following the publication of the law on the development of the public electricity service. Then, between 2002 and 2006 Electrabel (SUEZ group) gradually acquired a stake in SHEM, following an agreement with SNCF.
SNCF is not the only operator to produce electricity for its own use. OBB in Austria is its own power producer as well. ÖBB operates 45 photovoltaic systems in Austria, generating around 10,000 MWh of green electricity. Their commitment to sustainable energy is central to their climate protection strategy, with 100-per cent renewable traction power since 2018 and stations powered by renewable energy since 2019. ÖBB aims to increase their hydroelectric share to 40 per cent by 2030, expand renewable sources, and further electrify the railway network. Currently, over 95 per cent of rail services in Austria are electrically operated.